Neoimpressionism. An artistic movement that emerged in France at the end of the 19th century , grouping together a set of pictorial trends that delve into some features of Impressionism .

The Neo-Impressionists used two basic procedures as a pictorial foundation: Divisionism (fragmented application of color that consists of working the pictorial zones that share the same local nuance with the use of analogous colors, but with different saturations, tints and clarities); and Pointillism (technique to apply color on canvases in the form of dots and whose sole purpose is to completely decompose the image).

The term neo-impressionism was created by the French art critic Félix Fénéon in 1887 and the movement was led by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac , these artists who exhibited their works in 1884 at the Société des Artistes Indépendants, in Paris .


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  • 1 Scientific Background
    • 1 Fundamentals
  • 2 Pointillism and systematic division of tone
  • 3 Neo-impressionist principles
    • 1 Characteristics of its productions
  • 4 Sources

Scientific Background

The XIX century is nuanced by the advent of multiple discoveries in the field of physics, specifically, with regard to color and light. Among the findings, the discoveries of Eugène Chevreul and Charles Blanc stood out , revelations that were of particular interest to neo-impressionist artists. Chevreul’s interest stemmed from his job as director of a tapestry factory, having to face the task of mixing dyes and combining colors. Chevreul often found it difficult not to achieve the desired color effect, not because of pigments, but because of the influence of adjacent colors.

This fact led him to investigate in a pseudo-scientific way, how the appearance of some colors was influenced by adjacent colors; culminating his research with the publication in 1839 of his work “On the law of the simultaneous contrast of colors.” In this book, Chevreul proposed the concept of “simultaneous contrast” of colors, and the law that bears his name, which states that “two adjacent colors, when seen by the eye, will appear as different as possible.”

For its part, the phenomenon of simultaneous contrast occurs when on one color area, we superimpose another of complementary color. In this case the colors will interchange their opposite chromatic components and will be perceived even more different from each other. For example: if we placed a smaller but green area on a red surface; We would see the greenest green and the reddest red, with respect to the same red and green in other harmonies. The influence of Charles Blanc [1813-1882] for the neo-impressionists was rooted in the conceptual contributions that this author made about light and color, which were published after 1848.


Neo-impressionism was the most radical expression of impressionism. The neo-impressionists based themselves on color studies, on the principle of the systematic division of tone and concretized their achievements using the techniques of pointillism and divisionism. Unlike the Impressionists, the Neo-Impressionists tried to recover the forms that the former had dissolved in light and color.

Pointillism and systematic division of tone

Pointillism is the pictorial technique that enables the fragmentation and integration of colors in neo-impressionist compositions. As a technical procedure, it is based on the principle of color theory that expresses that any mixture of pigment reduces the luminosity of its components, accentuating the sense of black.

To avoid this problem, pointillists apply the colors on the fabric without mixing, in the form of small touches at the tip of the brush, allowing the mixture to be carried out on the observer’s retina. Pointillism achieves petite sensations that make the canvas a chromatic amalgam. The taste for pointillism and for the systematic division of tone was expressed by Georges Pierre Seurat himself, when he stated:

“To divide is to ensure all the benefits of luminosity, coloration and harmony; first by the optical mixing of the pure pigments, secondly, by the separation of the various elements and thirdly, by the balance of those elements and their proportions, according to the laws of contrast, degradation and irradiation. ”

Neo-impressionist principles

  • Principle of contrast: analogous colors, whose tints are by nature different, will always be contrasting.
  • Principle of systematic division of tone.
  • Principle of simultaneous contrast.
  • Principle of chromatic vibration, also known as irradiation.
  • Principle of optical mixing in the observer’s retina.
  • Principle of the proximity-distance antinomy.

Characteristics of their productions

  • Concern for order and clarity.
  • Exploration in the art of the latest in science about light and color.
  • Restitution of the concept so that the impressionists had dissolved in light and color
  • Return to the thoughtful arrangement of the table.
  • Application of the principle of optical mixing: the tones are divided or decomposed into the pure basic colors so that the eye restores them in normal distant vision.
  • Using the techniques of pointillism and divisionism: the paintings are painted using small brush strokes or dots of pure colors to achieve optical mixing.
  • A predilection for scenes such as ports, river banks, etc.


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